Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lana Updates

The last two weeks were nearly our lowest point, even worse than the week we spent evacuated from our home and living in hotel rooms because of Hurricane Isaac. Lana’s radiation sessions had ended, but the radiation keeps working after that. Her chemo sessions were over too, but she was so dehydrated and low on potassium for various reasons that we were going every two or three days to get her fluid infusions, which generally lasted four or more hours. She was sick constantly, often spitting up bile every 15 to 20 minutes. She wasn’t eating because she couldn’t swallow, and everything either tasted foul to her, or had no taste whatsoever. She drank a lot of fluids but couldn’t even hold those down half the time. Her voice was barely a whisper.

Because I was back full time at school, she was generally sleeping on the couch, partially so that she wouldn’t wake me up every few minutes when she got up. I still heard her, though. And each time she was sick it drove daggers in me. Neither of us was getting much sleep, and I could tell that Lana just constantly felt like hell. Her normally bright and expressive eyes were so sad that I’m sure my own eyes reflected the same.

When you go through weeks with no joy, you begin to wonder if there’ll ever be joy again, or even just some peace of mind. I begged for peace of mind. There was none to be had.

Lana was so beaten down last week that they ended up doing fluid infusions on both Thursday and Friday.  But by the weekend we began to see some rays of light through the darkness. The difficulty in swallowing eased. Her chemo rash finally cleared up. Most importantly, she started to ‘feel’ a little bit better, and she began to eat again, little bites of things at first, but then a bit more.  She told me how ‘good’ orange juice and Sprite was, and it brought a smile to my face and my heart. How long had it been since anything tasted good to her?  Months!

Yesterday, for the first time since this hell began, she went out and took a few photos of our neighborhood, and this morning she was up early and went to the Flatwoods park near our house and took more photos. For a woman who had simply stopped having the energy for such things, this felt like a major turning point to me.  Life is coming back. The bleakness is resolving a bit. Even as we move into the world’s autumn, it feels like Lana and I are reaching for spring.

We return to the doctor on October 15th and at that point we will schedule her next full body scan. We are in something of a holding pattern until then.  But, in the meantime, I’m sitting on our deck to write this, the first time I’ve spent more than a minute on the deck since summer began. The air is cool. I see a Chickadee cracking seeds. I see Cardinals at the feeders. For the first time in a long time, there is a hint of a smile in my heart.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heavy Metal Versus Hard Rock

You’d probably have to be an aficionado of the music to appreciate the differences between the musical genres called Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, and probably would have to have listened to quite a bit of the music to even begin to describe the differences between them. Many folks I know don’t hear any differences, but I think they are there, and here’s my take on it. Let me say, up front, that I love both genres and am not trying to make the point that one is better than the other.

Let me start off by naming some of what I consider representative albums in the two genres.

Heavy Metal
1. We Sold Our Souls For Rock and Roll – Black Sabbath
2.  Screaming for Vengeance – Judas Priest
3.  The Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
4.  Shout at the Devil – Motley Crue
5.  Master of Puppets – Metallica
6.  Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying – Megadeth
7.  Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera

Hard Rock
1.  Highway to Hell – AC/DC
2.  Machine Head – Deep Purple
3.  Tres Hombres – Z Z Top
4.  Free-For-All – Ted Nugent
5.  Gold and Platinum – Lynyrd Skynyrd
6.  Van Halen – Van Halen
7.  Aerosmith – Rocks

Some folks might dispute the inclusion of Motley Crue in the Heavy Metal list. The Crue were one of the progenitors of the subgenre known as Glam Metal. But there was no such thing as the Heavy Metal subgenre explosion when the Crue put out Shout at the Devil, and it is very heavy and one of my favorite albums of all time.

In the same way, Z Z Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd are often called southern rock or blues rock rather than Hard Rock, but I think those are subgenres rather than reflecting significant differences. And while Van Halen is sometimes called Heavy Metal, they don’t quite cross the metal line as I see it.

So what is that line? What are the differences?

First, there is the sheer heaviness of the music. Put on “Leper Messiah” by Metallica and compare it to “Gimme Back My Bullets” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Both are rocking songs, but there is a density in the Metallica song that just isn’t there in the Skynyrd. That doesn’t make it better or worse. It is different. Heavy Metal must have a denseness that Hard Rock does not require. Sometimes a Hard Rock Band will cross over that line with a song or two. “Ain’t Talking about Love” by Van Halen does that. “Saturday Night Special” by Lynyrd Skynyrd does.  But the average denseness is less in Hard Rock than Heavy Metal. 

Second, there is a lyrical approach to the music that is different. Hard Rock lyrics are much more about having a good time, about partying (alcohol and drugs), and about sex, than is the case with Heavy Metal. Metal lyrics are about death, about violence and war, and, more often, about historical or even current affairs. Metal lyrics are more often anti-Christian (although there are certainly exceptions), and more explicitly talk about evil. (Note that for most bands this is not because they actually worship Satan.)

Consider AC/DC’s songs like “Girls Got Rhythm, “Walk All Over You,” “Touch too Much,” “Beating around the Bush,” and “Love Hungry Man.” Although this album is entitled Highway to Hell, suggesting a more metal type of lyrics, the songs are primarily about partying and sex. Van Halen is largely the same way on their self-titled album, although there is variety in their lyrics. “Ice Cream Man” is a good example, and later Van Halen albums were even more about Hard Rocking sex than about Metal themes.

On the other hand, look at Master of Puppets, by Metallica, with songs like the title song, and “Leper Messiah,” “Sanitarium,” “Disposable Heroes,” and “The Thing That Should Not Be.”

Here’s where we could have some debate about the band Motley Crue. The Crue have many songs about sex on their Shout at the Devil album, such as “Ten Seconds to Love,” “Too Young to Fall in Love,” and “Looks that Kill.” They also, however, have songs like “Shout at the Devil,” which is pretty damn evil, as well as “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid,” and the remake of the Beatles “Helter Skelter.” This puts it in a kind of between-land, but in my judgment the album is more metal in its lyrics than Hard Rock. I will say, though, that some of Motley Crue’s later albums really cross more into Hard Rock territory with their lyrics, especially on songs such as “Girls, Girls, Girls,” and “Dr. Feelgood.”  I could see the Crue as being put into either camp and there could be good arguments either way. I think there’s much less room to argue for bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden on the metal side, and Z Z Top on the rock side.

There’s certainly room for debate on this issue. Ultimately, this post is about how I feel about the music I listen too.  Your opinions are welcome, of course.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ember Star Ebook

Under the Ember Star is out now in Kindle format for Amazon. It hasn’t shown up on Barnes and Noble for the Nook yet, although the print version is certainly available there.

Although in print it was published as a Wildside Double, with The Battle for Eden by Mark E. Burgess on the other side, the ebooks for the two have come out separately. I imagine it would have been a real pain to try to keep the “double format” in ebook.  Here’s a widget for Mark’s book in Kindle format if you’d like to check it out.

The advantage to the ebooks is price, of course. By separating the two and putting them in electronic format, the price has dropped to $2.99 a book as opposed to the $15.99 for the combined books in print format. Folks are talking about how ebooks are outselling print books. Well, I gotta believe a lot of that is simply about the price. I love print books and I’d certainly like to sell many copies of the works together in print, but $15.99 is pretty steep, I’ve got to admit.

As for “Ember Star,” I have to send a shout out to Shauna Roberts in relationship to the book. Shauna read and reviewed my Talera series, and interviewed me about them, and when I was working on the fourth one (which will eventually see the light of day) she made a comment about hoping to see a really strong female warrior-type character in that book. There is one in that work, but her comment also got me thinking that I wanted to try a strong female hero in something else as well.  Ginn Hollis, the main character from “Ember Star,” grew out of that thinking.  So thanks, Shauna, for the inspiration. Just below I’ve included a link to a fine SF adventure novel by Shauna called, The Hunt.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Notes from the Shadow City

I recently finished reading Notes from the Shadow City, a poetry chapbook collaboration between two widely recognized speculative poets, Gary William Crawford and Bruce Boston. The book is scheduled to be out on September 18 from Dark Regions Press, but I was able to score an advanced copy! I’m a big fan of both poets and have quite a shelf full of their books in my office. The “Shadow City” is a powerfully macabre creation of Crawford’s, and Bruce Boston plays beautifully in that imagined urban landscape.

My first exposure to the Shadow City concept came in Crawford’s 2005 chapbook from Naked Snake Press, simply called The Shadow City. It was nominated for the Bram Stoker award from the Horror Writers Association. I’ll be surprised if the new, and much expanded collection, Notes from the Shadow City, doesn’t get nominated as well. As a member of HWA, I’ll nominate it myself.

The language in “Notes,” from both poets, is simple and stark, which accentuates the horror described in such poems as “A Night Storm in the Shadow City,” and “The River Magnus Winds Through the Shadow City.” There are no pastels in this world, no light hearts, no thoughts that are not twisted in ways both subtle and profound. Image builds upon image; weight builds upon weight.  Not to numb the mind but to scour it free of layers of complacency and rust. I highly recommend such a scrubbing for everyone.

You can find out more about Gary William Crawford at the Gothic Press site, which Crawford founded. For information on Bruce Boston, check out his website.